Deaf Boy Told Signing Name Violates District Weapons Policy

A Grand Island father, whose 3-year-old son is hearing-impaired, is upset with the boy's principal. The dad claims the family was asked to have the boy use a different sign language technique to sign his name.

Hunter Spanjer's name sign involves crossing his fingers, like one might symbolize shooting guns. It's a registered name sign through SEE, shorthand for Signing Exact English. Hunter's father Brian says Grand Island Public Schools told him the sign violates the district's weapons policy.

“Because if the kid’s name is Hunter, they are probably following the English, we would do hunt, we do hunt." Dr. Julie Delkamiller and fellow instructor Jonathan Scherling at the University of Nebraska Omaha’s School of Education explain the different variations of name signs for the name Hunter.

There are different name signs because there are two completely different languages, American Sign Language and Signing Exact English. “Signing Exact English doesn't really have rules for name signs because it is English,” says Dr. Delkamiller.

Hunter’s father and grandmother say they were asked to change how they signed the boy's name by the school district. “Anybody that I have talked to thinks this is absolutely ridiculous. This is not threatening in any way."

Grand Island Public Schools said that's not the case and released this statement. "Grand Island Public Schools has not changed the sign language name of any student, nor is it requiring any current student with a hearing impairment to change his or her sign language name."

Still, Hunter’s father says it's what he will call and sign for his son. Nothing should change. “It's a symbol, it's an actual sign, a registered sign through SEE," says Brian.

To give you an idea of just how much interest this story is generating, the New York Daily News published an updated version of the story on Wednesday. The Daily News quotes Grand Island Public Schools’ spokesman Jack Sheard as saying, ”The name gesture was not an appropriate thing to do in school and administrators were asking Hunter to spell his name out letter-by-letter instead of using the sign. We are working with the parents to find the best solution we can."

It's unclear exactly what that solution will be.

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